By Melodie Veldhuizen
Tenants often do not know their rights and responsibilities when they rent property. We will discuss some of the worrying questions.
A written lease with all the terms, conditions, rights and responsibilities of the owner and tenant is essential. It states information such as the address of the leased property, rental and deposit amounts, additional costs, rental increases, manner and date of payment, duration of lease and suspension of the rental. Both parties sign the agreement and each gets a copy.
Usually a deposit equal to one or two months’ rental is payable in advance. It must be deposited in an account where the money earns interest up to the termination of the lease. Repair costs for damage caused by the tenants are deducted from the deposit and the balance is paid to the tenant within 14 days of the repair of the damage. If there is no damage to the property, the full deposit, with interest, is paid to the tenant within seven days.
How can I make sure that my deposit is refunded?
If you leave the property in the same condition it was in when you occupied it, you should get back your full deposit, with interest. The leasing agent or owner must do an inspection with you to identify all defects and problems. All parties must sign it and each gets a copy of it. The same procedure is followed when the lease expires. This serves as a source of reference for the repair of damage and the refund of the deposit.
When is the rent payable and what are the consequences of late payment or nonpayment?
Usually it is payable on the first day of the month. The implications of late or non-payment must be stipulated in the lease.
The difference between damage and normal wear and tear and who is liable for what?
The owner is responsible for the security of the property and for large repairs such as roof leaks, the repair and/or replacement of the hot-water cylinder and large sewage and electrical faults, as well as normal wear and tear of paint, carpets and door and cupboard locks and handles ─ provided that the damage was not caused through negligence or intentional damage by the tenant.
Tenants must keep the property and premises clean and neat. They must replace electric bulbs and broken windows. Damages and repairs due to negligence or intentional vandalism ─ a hole in a door, heat damage to a worktop in the kitchen or oil stains on carpets ─ are also the tenants’ responsibility.
May tenants make alterations to the property?
The tenant may not effect any structural alterations and/or additions and installations without the written permission of the owner. If the owner gives permission tenants cannot claim compensation from the owner. No installations may be removed when the lease expires. In some cases tenants may claim compensation for essential improvements and maintenace.
Cancellation of lease?
The lease period is usually set at, for instance, 24 months. In terms of section 14 of the Consumers Protection Act a tenant my before the expiry of the contract give 20 working days notice of cancellation of the lease. If the owner, agent or tenant finds a new tenant in time, neither the tenant nor the owner will suffer any damage. If not, the current tenant is responsible for a cancellation fee (as stipulated in the lease) and/or for the rental for what is left of the lease period. The amount owing may not be recovered from the deposit.
May tenants refuse to pay rent if they are dissatisfied?
You may under no circumstances withhold the rent even if the owner ignores your request for urgent repairs. Rather contact the Rental Housing Tribunal to help solve the problem. In some circumstances the tenant may terminate the lease, claim damages or make the necessary repairs himself and deduct that amount from the rental. Keep the receipts as proof of expenditure.
Who can tenants contact if they cannot themselves solve problems with the owner?
The Rental Housing Tribunal is at the service of the owner and the tenant. They arrange an impartial settlement by means of mediation and arbitration. They listen to both parties’ side of the matter and the Tribunal’s decision (which has the same authority as a magistrate’s court) is based on this information ─ in favour of either the owner or the tenant.
PG van der Merwe. Verhuringsbestuurder. Seeff Eiendomme. Pretoria East Record. 2 August 2019
Law for all. https://www.lawforall.co.za/basic-guide-to-renting-a-home-in-south-africa/
South African Government. https://www.gov.za/documents/rental-housing-act